I posted a list of inspiring books here that will help you keep your New Year’s resolutions. But I feel like I need to warn you away from a book that will definitely discourage you, unless you’ve already got it all together. In which case, how are we friends?
If you are trying to be more organized and competent in the sphere of domesticity this year, please do not read The Ultimate Career by Daryl Hoole. Read it out of curiosity. Read it as part of an anthropological study on housewifery, but don’t read it for tips unless you want to get depressed.
For example, there is a part in the book about how you need to practice “selective neglect” when illness or a new baby slows you down. This is your minimum maintenance mode for emergencies when you only have time and strength to do 5 things on a daily basis. Hoole suggests “preparing simple meals, doing the laundry, picking up throughout the major rooms of the house, keeping the kitchen clean, and keeping the bathrooms clean.”
I don’t mean to sound obtuse but, uh. . . what else is there? I’m lucky to keep up on those things when I’m operating at full capacity and with maids. Seriously. Oh Daryl Hoole, you make me laugh. I picture you as a cartoon moving at double speed. “Emergency! Emergency! Alert,” your high-pitched robotic voice cries, “day one postpartum. All lace-making operations on hold. I repeat: Cease tatting until further notification.”
Depending on my mood, I find this kind of book either infuriating (misogynistic rhetoric that keeps women guilt-ridden) or handy (menus!). Like I said, it depends on my mood. When I read this book I found myself thinking her advice was pathetic, “Write down things you’ve already done on your To Do list so you can cross them off for a real energy boost!” Then I decided she was wonderful and I was pathetic because I don’t use convenience food to my advantage. It was a real roller coaster.
Daryl Hoole writes about how therapeutic scrubbing and kneading bread dough are and at once I thought, “Could it be true? Is housework a blessing?” Then I craved Del Taco and went off to find a handful of chocolate chips.
Hoole mentions that they have a rule in their house that whenever the mom makes a meal or treats for someone in the neighborhood, some of it has to stay home to show the family that they come first and are just as important as the person their mom is serving. I can’t stop thinking about this rule and how, when all is said and done, it’s just way more work for the mom. I can relate to this because my mom was always making good things to take to other people and it was disappointing when it wasn’t for us, but it didn’t ruin my life. Not eating the brownies for the neighbor who had a baby was about the only kind of restraint or self-sacrifice I practiced as a kid. It was good for me. Here’s a thought: Why doesn’t Dad bring home a gallon of ice cream so the neglected family won’t get their feelings hurt while mom is out selfishly taking a meal to someone.
As a whole, I actually like this book. If you don’t like your house duties but you have to do them anyway, you may as well think of them as sacred and life-affirming (if it makes you feel better). Hoole has some good ideas and encouraging quotes. There’s all this buzz about showing your family love by cooking homemade things for them and setting a nice table. Part of me thinks this is probably true but another part of me knows for a fact that I enjoyed eating Totino’s pizza right off the cutting board with my mom and sisters more than any pizza she ever made us from scratch. So. . . I’m not sure what to make of it.